If there’s something I hate about personal development and self improvement is the “follow your passion” advice. Not because is a bad advice, but because this statement by itself is completely useless to most people, myself included.
Most self improvement material out there today can be resumed in some variant of the “follow your passion” fallacy and this explains why so many people end up becoming self help junkies without actually achieving their dreams.
To tell somebody trapped in an unfulfilled life that they should follow their passion, is like a doctor simply telling a patient that he should be healthier. Pure gold, right?
When people focus completely on the importance of “following their passion”, they tend to get obsessed about what their passion actually is, and spend years trying to figure it out. In most cases, they never do, life goes by. It’s sad, but it’s also a very common story.
The problem is that the whole “follow your passion” dilemma is wrong by itself. When we ask ourselves what is our passion, we are expected to come up with a definite answer, and there’s no way to do so and still live a fulfilling life. The problem is not that we are unable to figure out what our single passion is, the problem is that we are asking the wrong question in the first place.
Life Is More Than One Single Dish Dinner
The idea of following our passion implies that we must find an activity, idea, person, or even a thing that we love above everything else, and build a life around that. The idea of living a life driven by passion is a promise of endless satisfaction and everlasting joy. Yet, deep inside we know this is a lie. But everybody tells us the same thing, and they all look so happy and successful, so they have to be right.
How would you feel if I tell you today that the way to happiness is choosing one single dish and eat that for the rest of your life, every day, until the moment you die? What if you have to trick yourself into believing that this is actually the true path to happiness? You would feel, at least, a little bit confused, right? I’m sure you would think hard and long about it before choosing your single meal.
So you set yourself the goal to figure out what your passion is and you put some hard thought to it; after all, is what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. You better choose well.
No wonder why so many people never make up their minds and prefer to remain stuck in an unfulfilled life in order to avoid “living their passion”.
The first misconception about “following your passion” is the fact that the idea is posed as a permanent decision, when this could not be further from the truth.
The way to a fulfilled life is not finding the one thing on this planet that you love above everything else and do that thing every day until the moment you die. That is not my idea of a life full of passion. The way to a fulfilled life is by finding the thing on this planet that you love above everything else and do that for as long as it makes you feel good, knowing and understanding that such thing or activity could change at any given moment and that this is alright.
You Can Have It All
So there you are, frozen. Trying to decide between sushi or steak, or maybe you’re thinking about going vegan? By the time you come up with an answer, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Life has gone by. “Time flies” is a cliché, but that doesn’t mean is not true.
When thinking about our passion, we tend to get paralyzed by analysis. This is completely understandable when we approach the matter as if we had only one shot, which we know now is not true.
The irony is that by thinking that we have only one shot, we lose so much time and energy, that eventually we are really left with one single shot, if anything. On the other hand, if we lose the fear of failure and decide to take action as often as we can, chances are we will grow beyond what we thought possible.
Once we understand that choosing to live a passionate life in a certain manner is not a lifelong commitment, but a never ending work in progress, it becomes easier to take a step forward.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you are passionate about. Choose to try something, anything. When take a step forward and truly try, only there’re only two possible outcomes: success or failure. But in this case failure means to understand that we are not as passionate about that particular activity as we thought to be. For me that is far more enlightening that a hundred years of meditation.
We’re so afraid of choosing, that even the small choices take us a while. So practice to choose every day in every way you can. The next time you are at a restaurant, don’t go over the whole menu 10 times and ponder for 30 minutes which is the best option. Order whatever looks interesting, and if it is a mess, you can come over in a few days or weeks and order something else. Is not the end of the world if the chicken is not as you grandmother used to cook it. Stop losing time and start taking action.
Fire, Aim, Approach
“Follow your passion” is not actually an inaccurate advice after all. The problem is that we often confuse following our passion with “think long and hard about what is the one single thing you love the most and do that FOREVER”. Now, that’s not a very good advice.
Making the choice of living a passionate life is a call to action. You cannot follow your passion by thinking about it. Life is about learning and evolving, so don’t be afraid of failure, is inevitable and a natural part of being a human.
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